Friday, November 19, 2010

Thinking about Models and Plagiarism

Managing the blog with two identical classes sharing it was something of a challenge as I had to remember to keep moving the "announcements" for the week to the top and as one class followed another I had to avoid any "surprises" as the second class quickly caught on that they could check the blog during the other class and know what was coming up. This was especially odd since the classes (both ENG102s) were out of sync due to graduation so the Thursday class was "first" and the Tuesday class "second" which left a lot of lag time between Thursday posting and Tuesday. Essentially Thursday had to work without models and Tuesday always had models of what to do from the other class (occasionally poor models).

Which brings me to another point: since going online and public I have essentially put myself in the position of re-prepping every semester, at least to some extent, as my current students can Google search key words in my assignments and my former students blogs show up! If I keep my assignments the same, down the line I will inevitably deal with current students plagiarizing off of former students. I could check for this by Google searching, of course, but as many of you know one student plagiarizing off of another will often be missing the "cues" that indicate plagiarism. I am not so concerned about this in ENG099 as the CAT-W test at the end has to be passed and any plagiarizers are just shooting themselves in the foot. However, in ENG102 it could be an issue. Therefore, I am going to do some hard thinking about changing texts regularly and work on some methods to ensure that casual plagiarism does not creep in. Probably changing the texts students write about would work (I could keep all the ones I lecture on and that we use in class) or, if I continue to allow students to choose their own texts to write about, starting something like a wiki where they post their essays by work title (i.e. Ibarbouro "I Grew for You") so that students will know that I know what my previous students have done.

I have also gotten in the habit of Google searching my own assignments to see what is out there that other teachers are doing and have found some similar classes and projects to mine. I think I will be proactive about this and link them on my site (Another neat project like ours!) instead of proscriptive (Do not look at these!). The more they know that I know the better off we will be.


  1. Good ideas--as we know, plagiarism usually happens when the students are given hard tasks and they perceive that we will not care how they got the answers or that we are not smart enough to figure how they got the answers.

  2. Even though it might seem like the task of policing against plagiarism has gotten harder as you've gone public on the Web, I think you may actually have narrowed the field. In a traditional classroom, plagiarists essentially have at their disposal the entire universe of text that their instructors are not savvy enough to know about. In your case, the temptation to plagiarize from other essays in the same class (ready-made to the assignment--how convenient!) seems like it might discourage seeking out exotic "sources" in favor of the low-hanging fruit. Small consolation for a conscientious educator, I know, but at least it's something!

  3. My stock phrase now, when asked if I worry about plagiarism, is "I worry that your students are plagiarizing off mine". That may be more true than not!